Poll Tax

poll tax, a capital tax levied equally on every adult in the community. Although no longer a significant source of revenue for any major country, the poll tax did provide large sums for many governments until well into the 1800s. The tax has long been attacked as being an unfair burden upon those less able to pay. In the United States, the poll tax has been connected with voting rights. Poll taxes enacted in Southern states between 1889 and 1910 had the effect of disenfranchising many blacks as well as poor whites, because payment of the tax was a prerequisite for voting. By the 1940s some of these taxes had been abolished, and in 1964 the 24th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution disallowed the poll tax as a prerequisite for voting in federal elections. In 1966 this prohibition was extended to all elections by the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled that such a tax violated the "equal protection" clause of the 14th Amendment to the Constitution. In 1990, Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher of Great Britain introduced a poll tax with exemptions for people with low incomes or disabilities. The measure was extremely unpopular and played a role in her replacement as prime minister later that year.

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2015, The Columbia University Press.

Poll Tax: Selected full-text books and articles

The Poll Tax in the South By Frederic D. Ogden University of Alabama Press, 1958
From Rates to the Poll Tax: Local Government Finance in the Thatcher Era By Arthur Midwinter; Claire Monaghan Edinburgh University Press, 1993
Taxation and the American Economy: An Economic, Legal, and Administrative Analysis By William H. Anderson Prentice-Hall, 1951
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 26 "Poll Taxes"
Political and Civil Rights in the United States By Thomas I. Emerson; David Haber Dennis, 1952
Librarian’s tip: "The Poll Tax" begins on p. 278
Outside the Magic Circle: The Autobiography of Virginia Foster Durr By Virginia Foster Durr; Hollinger F. Barnard University of Alabama Press, 1990
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 9 "Poll Tax Politics"
The Colonial Roots of American Taxation, 1607-1700 By Rabushka, Alvin Policy Review, August-September 2002
British Medieval Population By Josiah Cox Russell University of New Mexico Press, 1948
Librarian’s tip: Chap. VI "The Poll Taxes"
Struggle for Mastery: Disfranchisement in the South, 1888-1908 By Michael Perman University of North Carolina Press, 2001
From Slave South to New South: Public Policy in Nineteenth-Century Georgia By Peter Wallenstein University of North Carolina Press, 1987
Librarian’s tip: Discussion of poll taxes begins on p. 41
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